Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Desperate to Believe . . .

Climate alarmists conjured a world where nothing was certain but death, taxes, and catastrophic global warming. They used this presumed scientific certainty as a bludgeon against the skeptics they deemed “deniers,” a word meant to have the noxious whiff of Holocaust denial.
So begins Rich Lowry's piece in the National Review Online about the demise of the "settled science" of anthropogenic global warming.

I suppose I can take some small satisfaction in the fact that I went on record (here and here for instance) as a "denier" prior to the exposé of the massive manipulation and suppression of the scientific data contradicting the AGW dogma. Be that as it may, what I find interesting in Lowry's article is this sentence: "Too many of the creators and guardians of the “consensus” desperately wanted to believe in it."

An example of this is the reluctance on the part of the Pom-Pom Media to even cover the new and shocking revelations. Here, from NewsBusters, is how that stacks up:
[Dr. Phil] Jones [head of the British Climatic Research Unit] also admitted that he and his fellow scientists manipulated figures to hide a decline in crucial tree-ring data thereby questioning the validity of the entire global warming theory.
Despite the seriousness of these revelations, much as what happened when the ClimateGate scandal first broke, with the exception of Fox News, America's media have almost totally boycotted this amazing story:
  • No mention by the New York Times
  • No mention by the Washington Post
  • No mention by USA Today
  • No mention by ANY major U.S. newspaper EXCEPT the Washington Times
  • No mention by the Associated Press
  • No mention by Reuters
  • No mention by UPI
  • No mention by ABC News
  • No mention by CBS News
  • No mention by NBC News
  • No mention by MSNBC 
For its part, CNN FINALLY got around to covering this story with a very brief mention Tuesday.
So we're back to the guardians of the "consensus" needing desperately to believe it. The obvious and most important question about this is: Why did they (do they) so desperately need to believe it? Many have pointed to how lucrative the global warming "crisis" proved to be for research scientists who were willing to toe the line. 

Tom Bethell chimes on that point here:
Those who promoted the bogus certainties of global warming not only sought to upend a whole way of life but came close to doing so. They have been aided by hundreds of well-known politicians, writers, reporters, and politicized scientists. Among politicians, Al Gore is only the best known. In the last category, James Hansen and Michael Mann are among the major U.S. culprits.
Christopher Booker, who has long covered these issues for the Sunday Telegraph and is one of the few British journalists to have done so, calls climate fraud “the greatest scientific scandal of our age.” He notes that the Royal Society, a once great institution founded in 1662, has become “a shameless propagandist for the warmist cause.”
Government funding has been the major subversive force. If you read Science, as I do, you see that the issue the magazine cares about above all others, and editorializes about week after week, is funding. Government funding. The constant concern about money means that Science and other journals feel obliged to keep up a drumbeat of articles that sustain the mood of crisis surrounding a given issue. 
In support of this argument, Bethell adds:
Recently, Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University has been the leading promoter of bogus global temperature claims. He manufactured the misleading “hockey stick” temperature graph that eliminated the Medieval Warm Period by cherry-picking tree-ring data. He accuses dissenters of being funded by oil companies and has garnered $6 million in government grants for Penn State. As a climate dissenter rather than a distorter, he would have been vilified, not remunerated. He’s an enemy of science.
One can never overlook venality and careerism, but there were very many people who apparently needed just as desperately to believe in global warming who had no such reasons for their desperation. Something to which Bethell alludes when he writes:
The prolonged deception about warming, and the silence about nuclear power, shows that the warmists’ real interest is in a revolutionary change in the American way of life, not the reduction of emissions.
 A corollary to the search for why so many were so desperate to believe the global warming claims is: Why can we say with a very high degree of certainty that the vast majority of those with no financial or career stakes in the question but who nevertheless "desperately needed to believe" the global warming story were political liberals? Was it, as Bethell implies, that their real interest was "in a revolutionary change in the American way of life?" That, it seems to me is clearly a part of it. But it may be connected to another motivation, perhaps an even less conscious one. So here is another version of some thoughts on this that I have earlier and elsewhere proposed.

To be human is to be a moral creature. We are each endowed with a moral sensor; call it conscience if you like. As we all know, it can be malformed and therefore unreliable, but it cannot be shut down entirely without destroying our humanity. Like a muscle in one's body, the moral sensor needs to be exercised. When it is confronted with morally odious events or realities, it stirs from its slumber. If, however, we learn to subordinate this moral impulse of ours either to some selfish craving of our own or to some ideological censor, then we will have to find something on which to exercise our moral imaginations and about which to feel a moral urgency and perhaps moral outrage. This is so, if for no other reason, because all but the most hopeless nihilists among us do not want to either be or appear to be suffering from moral autism. Now, politically correct multiculturalists will tend to avoid any expression of moral urgency that either calls into question the sacred cows of the left (like abortion) or in any way gives aid and comfort to conservative concerns (like Islamic fanaticism). Moreover, the more one's righteous moral indignation can be indulged without incurring either personal danger or lifestyle inconveniences, the better. If the burden of the moral campaign is that the West bears the greatest responsibility for the moral offense, all the better. Put two and two together and you've got global warming, or, as it came to be called once word got out that the globe was not warming, "climate change," which has been happening for roughly four and a half billion years. 

Which brings us to the second reason the global warming phenomenon had such appeal. (cheery optimist that I am, I speak in the past tense here.) As I noted in an earlier post, one of the global warming alarmists is John Holdren, now president Obama's "science czar." Holdren is typical, however, in that he managed to segue effortlessly to his global warming alarmism from his earlier population bomb alarmism. In the name of each of these causes, he has sounded so extreme an alarm that he has suggested that governments must seriously consider setting aside human rights scruples -- especially with regard to reproduction -- in order to avoid disaster. (As I suggested here, the population bomb scare, and the credulity with which it was adopted all all levels of our public life, massively contributed to the death of Europe as we know it and its eventual Islamization -- no small unintended consequence that.)

Which is related in some way to what many have noted, namely, that Green is the new Red. With the collapse of communism and the tarnishing of communism-lite, the resentment that fueled the latter had to find someplace else to be expressed. The new crisis -- which it would be a "shame to waste" (in the odious words of president Obama's chief of staff) -- and which could be used to stampede a reluctant electorate into re-engineering political and economic life -- was an environmental one. This is what Bethell was suggesting above. 

Anthropogenic environmental destruction can be primarily blamed on those cultures which have the technological wherewithal to have significant environmental consequences. (The native Americans were at least as environmentally destructive as Communist East Germany, and far more so than Exxon, but they lacked the technical capacity to make the destruction consequential.) That being the case, ecological crises are an opportunity for those in high moral dudgeon to fulminate against "enemies" as abstract and as personally non-threatening as corporate greed and the middle-class lifestyle, all the while justifying, in their minds, their indifference toward the far more culturally troubling (aforementioned) symptoms of moral degeneration which had been ideologically immunized from scrutiny by the secular left.  The result was a "cause" in support of which they could feel morally sanctimonious toward western culture and its market economy, coincidentally two things that the Leftists of old (the Reds) always despised. 

Whether the planet is heating or not remains to be seen. If it is, whether this is due to human factors or not also remains to be seen. If and when either issue is truly settled, I will be happy to know the truth and try to accommodate to it. In the meantime, the warnings of those who "desperately need to believe" the worst should be taken with a grain of salt. 

22 comments:

Ricky Raccoon said...

Great piece, Gil. So many great points one could spend time on.

A couple off the top of the head before I head to work:

Definitely an all encompassing, psycho/spiritual aspect hovering over the whole thing. For those with eyes and ears. You call it a “sensor” and a muscle. I’ve seen a related thing described, but as a “spiritual organ”; that indeed needs exercise and can and should be developed; but properly. I’d like to upgrade that concept to “vital organ”. Being “vital”, if not the most, it is important to recognize it and then get the best Truth serum you can. I can’t think of a more holistic one, for Man as such, than, as a wise man told me recently, “is the World’s oldest religion that now goes by the name Christianity.” It is/was always here. Even before the fall.

The late great Michael Crichton would approve of your post. He was the first I recall to describe the phenomenon as “environmentalism as religion”. The 2003 speech is here.

He spoke before congress in 2005 about the removal of the medieval warm period from the “hockey stick” study. That 2005 speech is here.

There are some other very good speeches and essays there too; on complexity theory, science policy, etc.

Good close to your post too. Indeed, if your mission is the Truth, you’ll have no problem, no hesitation, discarding your insufficient, immature or downright infantile theories. This is why I was never a really good leftist when I was one. And I was one. A true scientist would never treat science the way it’s been treated under AGW.

Rob said...

Great post.

I work in the field of computational physics and regularly compete for federal funds, which is never an apolotical process. But the degree to which politics/PCness was able to influence scientists, either directly through grant support or indirectly through intimidation,
has been a discouraging education. As has the degree to which the AGW crowd (politicians, their scientists and media) is/was able to manipulate public opinion.

Thankfully this particular campaign seems to be faltering. But the government/media structure that launched it is largely intact. Fortunately, so too is the blogosphere that has served as a thorn in the side of AGW.

Thanks for the blog.

Dean said...

Gil,
I find it interesting that when strong religious conviction based on internal witness collides with objective, abundant and compelling evidence that can be independently verified and corroborated extensively, the default position is to embrace faith over facts in the form of intractable skepticism and denial and to declare that those who do not agree are "morally sanctimonious", as though proclaiming something a thousand times turns fact into falsehood. On top of that, those who embrace the consensus are reduced to dismissive caricatures. They embrace "bogus certitudes" or are persuaded by "politicized scientists" of the "shameless fraud" of climate science. It takes a tremendous amount of faith to believe that thousands of climate scientists the world over are in collusion because of faulty conscience to coerce lovers of truth into embracing a lie. This is a peculiar and tortured line of reasoning. On top of that of course, the scientists themselves are all on the take, motivated not by integrity or honesty but by the subversive siren call of funding, venality, careerism and personal aggrandizement.

Let us imagine for a moment that a comet were on a collision course with the earth (a scenario which is not completely improbable, since it's happened thousands on times in the history of our planet and will most assuredly happen again) and suppose also that it possessed a mass sufficiently large so that its impact would destroy our planet or at the very least, render it uninhabitable, and that we had 20 years to react and prepare a defense against it. Would you berate the scientific community for bringing it to the public's attention repeatedly and making preparations? As the time counts down, would you expect the alarm to increase or decrease as the threat approaches? Would you be more upset by warnings or apathy? How would you react to the knowledge that the scientific community were seeking to expand funding in order to check their measurements more carefully to first assure themselves they were not engaged in false alarmism, and secondly to meet the challenge that awaits us when their data is confirmed by further testing? Would you say they were misinformed based on less credible naysayers who are terrified, not by contrary evidence and overwhelming fact, but by the fierce repudiation of anything that threatens to compromise their version of the status quo?

To continue our analogy, would you join the denialists in their paranoia as well as their skepticism by insisting that scientists had a secret agenda to change our very way of life? That they were motivated by some unspoken but deeply felt Machiavellian deceit? The irony is inescapable. A mile wide comet would most assuredly change our way of life, but then, in the service of illusion, apparently no price in avoidance would be too high to pay.

Would it not be the first response of a "moral creature" to have a deeply moral concern for consequences that are so dramatic in their effect that they promise to touch virtually everyone and effect everything? Suppose the "odious reality" is not the subversion of conscience, and its concomitant hypotheticals about spiritual cravings gone awry, but a re-definition based on the exclusion of uncomfortable facts that make everything go awry?
(continued….)

Dean said...

Part II
Assuming scientists didn't invent global warming so they could avoid seeming insensitive about women's reproductive freedom, or Islamic terrorism, or whatever else it is you imagine them doing, what is it about their insensitivity that is killing the oceans? Raising the atmospheric temperature to record highs? Increasing carbon dioxide levels? Creating environmental refugees displaced by global warming in Sub-Saharan Africa, El Salvador, Haiti, and Bangladesh? Melting permafrost? Endangering species? Does our conscience, active or autistic, effect the weather? Which will effect lifestyle changes more? A 20 foot rise in sea level, or endless refrains about other people's smugness?

The kicker of course, is your closing line. "Whether the planet is heating or not remains to be seen. If it is, whether this is due to human factors or not also remains to be seen. If and when either issue is truly settled, I will be happy to know the truth and try to accommodate to it."

Here's your chance:

Hockey Sticks and East Anglia

Part II

TED presentation on ice loss

Science gone wrong

Why is it so cold if global warming is real?

Outlawing Global Warming

Answering climate deniers

Confronting Climate Collapse

Debunking the debunkers

Gordon said...

Dean,

Are you not paying attention? The whole edifice of AGW is collapsing with new revelations almost daily. One day we find out the IPCC’s claim that the Himalayan glaciers could melt by 2035 were based on a misquote from a phone conversation. No studies, much less peer reviewed studies. Then it turns out their claims about “more intense storms” came from a study that, when published, came to the conclusion that there was no evidence that AGW was generating more storms. Then it turns out that their claim that 40% of the rain forest might succumb to global warming was based on a non-refereed “term paper” by two guys who did volunteer work for the Wildlife fund. No science, no data, no peer review. And this is the stuff your “consensus” assumed unassailable.

And did you read the interview with Phil Jones of CRU? His e-mails revealed that what the “deniers” suspected was true: a small group was making sure threatening views were suppressed. The man man was on a suicide watch because he knew his status as a scientist is destroyed. Instead of killing himself he came clean with the BBC. Oh, he still thinks AGW is true, but now he’ll admit that there is no real scientific consensus, that there has been no “statistically significant warming” in the last 15 years, and finally he admitted that the Medieval Warming Period might very well have been warmer than today (in fact, he admits that in every part of the world with written history we know for a fact the MWP was warmer than today. He’s holding out for the “coincidence” that all the cold was among those without written language.).

By the way, you’re whole “comet heading for the planet” scenario falls apart without the MWP. The whole idea of an AGW apocalypse comes from the assumption that we’re hitting unprecedented temperatures that might result in a “positive feedback” loop where everything comes apart. If it was warmer in 1250 and things didn’t fall apart, that becomes a ridiculous suggestion.

With all respect, how can you possibly carry on like nothing happened in the last few months?

Ricky Raccoon said...

Thank you, Gordon.

It is interesting to watch unfold – the slow unfold - from a psychological or armchair anthropologist standpoint. Or rather, sitpoint. To what ends will some cling. Perhaps they are waiting for more facts before jumping to conclusions? (giggle)
This reminds me of a joke I heard once about settled science. Stop me if you’ve heard it...

BTW, if they care so much about the planet (just as you and I do) they should be happy, right? This is good news, right? This is telling.

Doughlas Remy said...

Gil, whether or not you believe in global warming, the clean tech industry is taking off in a big, big way. Thomas Friedman of the NYT has been watching the trends in China, Japan, Germany, and elsewhere, and he sees a global industry developing very rapidly--one that will eventually overtake oil and gas. China is investing heavily in renewable energy, high-speed rail, and, now, electric cars. Bill Gates announced just last week that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation now considers global warming to be the major issue to address going forward.

Meanwhile, the American public is plagued by confusion. Friedman writes:

Iran, Russia, Venezuela, and the whole OPEC gang are high-fiving each other. Nothing better serves their interests than to see Americans becoming confused about climate change, and, therefore, less inclined to move toward clean-tech and, therefore, more certain to remain addicted to oil.

The next time you fill up your tank, I hope you'll think about where your gas money is going. Our dependence on oil has enriched the very Islamic countries that are now spreading hatred of the West. We are paying for the madrassas where boys are taught that infidels deserve to die, and we are paying for the weapons--large and small--that they are using to kill us.

In view of your opinions about Islam, I would have expected you to be an enthusiastic advocate of energy-independence and clean technology.

That's one cognitive dissonance. The other is your position vis-a-vis the Pope's. (You're completely out of phase.) Do you think you might have missed something that he has understood? Or maybe it's the other way around?

Dean said...

Gordon,
Yes. I'm paying attention. That's why I attempt to discriminate between signal and static. According to atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira, “To talk about global cooling at the end of the hottest decade the planet has experienced in many thousands of years is ridiculous.” You could also quote NOAA climate monitoring chief Deke Arndt from the same AP story, “The last 10 years are the warmest 10-year period of the modern record. Even if you analyze the trend during that 10 years, the trend is actually positive, which means warming.”

The medieval warm period, or more accurately, the climate anomaly between 800-1200 AD, was mainly a regional phenomenon caused by altered heat distribution rather than a global phenomenon. Global temperature records taken from ice cores, tree rings, and lake deposits have shown that, taken globally, the Earth may have been slightly cooler during the period in question, and did not contribute to generating the feed back loops anticipated in contemporary human induced co2 emissions due to upwardly trending temperatures on a global scale in an industrialized world.

I wasn't aware that the hypothetical comet in my earlier post could be persuaded to alter its course based on changes in global temperature. Perhaps changes in earth's gravity would be more helpful, or a little assist from our solar system's "vacuum cleaner" the planet Jupiter. But that's not our immediate concern anyway.

From the Economist.com:

"A few weeks ago it was unearthed, to everyone's great relief, that the IPCC report was wrong to have stated that the Himalayan glaciers might be gone by 2035. Since then the hunt has been on for errors in the report, and a number of accusations have followed. According to the climate scientists at RealClimate, the incorrect Dutch sea-level statistic is the one that comes closest to being an actual error. An assessment that rain-fed crop yields in some African countries "could be reduced by up to 50%" is based on legitimate research, and is followed in the report by the qualifier that some other climate changes may be beneficial. A claim that up to 40% of the Amazonian rainforest could be subject to die-off due to relatively small changes in precipitation is similarly legitimate. A chart showing economic damages from climate change should not have been included in the report's supplementary materials, say the researchers whose work it is based on. But otherwise they say the IPCC has accurately represented their work."

Dean said...

Part 2
"The media like big numbers. Reporters will naturally take a 3,000-page report like that of the IPCC and skim through it, looking for affected populations over 1 billion, percentages over 50%, and catastrophes occurring within the next 30 years. The resulting picture in the media will exaggerate the results of the scientific research. In some cases, scientists who work on climate-change issues, and those who put together the IPCC report, must be truly exasperated to have watched the media first exaggerate aspects of their report, and then accuse the IPCC of responsibility for the media's exaggerations."

From Americanprogress.org:

"This skepticism, [regarding climate change] which has always received far more play in the U.S. media than it did in scientific circles, has two significant effects. On the one hand, it appears to legitimize editorials like this one, in which the noted climatologists feel emboldened in their frequently stated belief that “the science [of global warming] is still disputable.” On the other hand, it adds significance to the decisions of corporations like oil giants BP PLC and ConocoPhillips and heavy equipment maker Caterpillar to withdraw their cooperation from business-environmental efforts—in this case the three-year-old U.S. Climate Action Partnership—designed to encourage industry to engage constructively in policy discussions to meet the perceived threat.

"The more recent disclosures of unrealistic glacial disappearance rates and incorrect Netherlands geography also demonstrate some scientific sloppiness in the editing and review in the IPCC process. The physics, models, and most observations of climate change remain sound, however. A consensus among scientists appears to support a review and strengthening of the IPCC process, but again, it’s not inspiring very many scientists to question the principal conclusions: that the enormous changes we’re making to atmospheric chemistry are having a significant effect on climate, which will in turn have a significant effect on ecosystems. And none to the good.

"The horrific and likely implications of failing to meet this challenge—particularly for the most vulnerable among us who cannot move to higher or more fertile ground in the event of rising oceans or disrupted ecosystems—make it a threat to the security of the United States and much of the world. The media have failed to accurately translate mainstream science’s concerns when it comes to climate change, but then again, it’s so much more fun to make fun of Al Gore because it snows, and as everybody knows, the purpose of news in our era is entertain, not to inform. If only scientists could be funnier."

In regard to Mr. Raccoon's concern about my happiness for the planet dodging the AGW bullet, it's touching, but grossly premature.

Full article quoted above is here

How we know Global Warming is happening

Gordon said...

Dean,

The MWP happened everywhere where we have written history. From the Northern Africa to Greenland. Is that what you mean by local? You seem to think the temperature proxies just show that the rest of the world was cold during this period. No, they suggest also that those areas reporting warm weather, from North Africa to Greenland, were colder than history and human records report. Does this massive plot by Exxon funded “deniers” go back to a medieval version of the Heartland Institute paying off monks to write bogus letters about warm winters and wine grapes in Sweden? Could it be that our ability to read exact weather conditions off tree rings and ice cores or any other proxy isn’t fully developed? Ya think? Think the Russian claim that the IPCC proxy studies in Siberia cherry picked samples that supported their claims and ignored those that didn’t might have some validity?

There’s no shortage of shills for the AGW industry. I can summarize their arguments: “there’s nothing going on here, keep moving.” You know their retorts are weak when the always end with some version of this, as you quoted: “A consensus among scientists appears to support a review and strengthening of the IPCC process, but again, it’s not inspiring very many scientists to question the principal conclusions: that the enormous changes we’re making to atmospheric chemistry are having a significant effect on climate, which will in turn have a significant effect on ecosystems. And none to the good.” In other words, I know my arguments suck and our scientists have been exposed as corrupt, but look, hey, humans are putting bad stuff out in the atmosphere and it’s got end up up doing something terrible, right? So keep moving and don’t question your new taxes or the billions GE and Goldman-Sachs are reaping.

If your conscience allows you to take these people at their word, then go with God.

Dean said...

Gordon,
"The MWP happened everywhere where we have written history." We didn't have written history everywhere. But the data expands to cover those areas where we didn't, and it confirms, when you factor in written reports, that it was not a Global Phenomenon Parts of central Eurasia and northwestern North America for instance, were anomalously cool during medieval times. Corals from the central tropical Pacific indicate that temperatures were somewhat cooler there during medieval times as well, although the authors concede that the considerable noise caused by the El Niño/La Niña cycle puts this conclusion on somewhat shaky ground. In general, though, scientists think that La Niña-like conditions prevailed in the Pacific during the period — cooler in the eastern Pacific and warmer in the western — leading to intense drought in places like the US Southwest. Incidentally, that's when the settled native American peoples of the Southwest, the Anasazi, deserted their homeland in the Four Corners region and headed east and south.

Even the Vikings had a hard time sustaining themselves in an environment where the cold weather made it hard for them to grow crops. But since variability is a hallmark of climate change in any era, that's not unusual. As for the Heartland Institute which claims to be dedicated to "free market principles", it was probably too busy paying off Anthony Watts to be that concerned about 12th Century monks, Native Americans or Greenland Vikings. In fact, such themes and politics run through many of the denialist's literature.

PhD Professor of History and Science Naomi Oreskes examines this phenomenon by looking in detail at the George C. Marshall Institute. The underlying goal of these thinly veiled organizations is, in her words, "to stave off regulation through laissez faire, free market capitalism." The strange brew of denialism coupled with the promotion of exaggerated concern and misrepresented evidence, coincides somehow with the belief that technology will solve our problems without government interference, by distorting or silencing the defined science. The question is, how can technology be motivated to find solutions to problems they are told repeatedly don't exist? This group is disguising a political debate as a scientific one.
(continued…)

Dean said...

Part 2
Russians accusing scientists of "cherry picking" data whose confidentiality was blown by hacking operations worthy of cold war espionage methods endorsed by the Kremlin, doesn't exactly reek of "validity". It seems disingenuous at best for them to preach to others that the end doesn't justify the means. And you throw this up as a valid criticism of global warming science? This was a politically motivated and engineered operation. The IPCC puts the blame squarely in the lap of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (more recognizable by their former name: the KGB). The hacked data apparently surfaced on the server of a Russian internet security company based in the Siberian city of Tomsk, where the FSB has an office. And the FSB, argues Walker, is notorious for grooming hackers and launching cyber attacks.

What's more, by keeping the Arctic Circumpolar Seas ice-free all year round, climate change will unlock Russia's enormous and lucrative reserves of fossil fuel. The suggestion is that Russia will welcome this effect of global warming. The timing was great too: Just in time to undermine the climate conference getting underway in Copenhagen.

As for MWP, The argument runs like this: If in the 12th century without human influence, it was even warmer than at the high point of industrialization, why should the current warming have non-natural causes? A better question: If natural variability and natural forcing can create a hot climate without appreciable human interference, what would happen if you factored in an even more moderate background climate multiplied by industrialization, biomass extraction, the correlation between temperature and CO2, the addition of 34 billion metric tons of artificially produced gases, oceanic acidification, and a population 42 times larger added to the equation? The atmospheric distribution is more evenly spread by human demographics. That includes atmospheric as well as fossil fuel carbon, which have different isotope ratios, and point specifically to human causes. The stored biomass is critical to the equation, because much of it was stored during the Jurassic and other periods when the earth was warmer and supported a greater distribution of organic life under greater fluctuation in temperature. Methane which is a by product of partial breakdown of the mass, is presently locked in large quantities in permafrost, but is expected to be released by upwardly trending temperatures.

Earth's climate is a complex and dynamic system. Scientists don't perfectly understand how it works, although with each passing year their understanding improves. They can't completely explain what caused the medieval climate anomaly. And it's also true that there's no reason to think something like the MCA won't happen again — that some regions will experience warming comparable to today's, due solely to natural cycles and variability.

To recap: During the MWP, temperatures went up in some places, but not all places. In some places, they may have been cooler. Today, however, temperatures are rising much more uniformly around the world, and that trend coincides with the birth of the industrial revolution. (An in-depth discussion of the MWP, including history, can be found in the 2003 review [PDF] in Science, as well as in Chapter 6 [PDF] of the IPCC's 2007 report.)

Think climate science is falling apart? Think again.

Gordon said...

Dean,

"The MWP happened everywhere where we have written history." We didn't have written history everywhere. But the data expands to cover those areas where we didn't..."

What data? C’mon, at least read the post your responding to. I, not being a complete imbecile, didn’t say we had written history everywhere during the MWP; rather, I was suggesting it a strange coincidence that all the cooling that is supposed to vitiate the MWP happens in places where we don’t have history, only proxies. What are the odds? I also pointed out that the proxy results in areas we know to have been warm don't always correspond to what we know by history. So just proving your case by citing more proxy data won't cut it.

Remember that phrase from the leaked e-mails, “hide the decline?” Do you know that it was referring not to temperatures but proxies? See, there’s a strong correlation between the proxies and instrument readings from 1850 (when the instruments get sophisticated enough to count) and 1960. And if it was 1960 we’d have every reason to read the proxies, whether coral reef or tree rings, as a reliable measure of temperatures in pre-1850 times. The problem is that proxies show a decline in temperatures from 1960 until now. It’s the divergence between instrument readings and proxies for the last half century that had to be hidden. Not because it negates the temperatures we know by instrument, but because it calls into question our historical reconstructions. In sum, the entire experimental window that allows us to posit “proxies” is from 1850 to 2010. If the correlation only exits 63% of the time, then we haven’t yet learned to read accurate “climate” from our proxies. This screws the pooch for AGW’s dismissal of MWP.

There’s more to be said, but what’s the point? Even if a more rational and precise version of AGW emerges -- and I would welcome and embrace that if I thought it was true -- I think Gil has it right when he suggests that the current version is an anthropological phenomenon that has swallowed up and used a small piece of tentative and incomplete science for it’s own purposes.

And that’s the only part of the issue I want to talk about now. Not to say I don’t enjoy an intellectual exchange.

Dean said...

Gordon,
The methodology of science is always in danger of being exploited in bad ways by the people who use it. The Challenger and Colombia Shuttles comes to mind. Science has had both the honor of sending men to the moon, and the dishonor of blowing them up on their way into and out of space, because of time pressure, budgetary concerns, managerial and communications conflicts, and the kind of group-think and political pressure that can dominate a single government agency. But it has also done remarkable things to save lives and advance human concerns and well being while pushing back the veil of ignorance.

The Mann proxies are a small part of a larger equation which includes candidate data from different sources using different methodologies in order to average results. Global dimming (solar radiance) has also offset temperatures since 1960 as a result of the use of aerosols which may have effected proxy correlations after that date. On top of that, tropospheric temperature and stratospheric temperatures can be altered by different factors. If I knew more about heteroscedastic Breusch-Godfrey exclusions, Pareto power-law distribution, or asymmetrically bimodal frequency variations in proxy climate audits, I'd have more to say about how reliable they are in mitigating medieval warming. But it makes my head hurt too much, so I trust in those who have done the work and invested their professional lives in research to proclaim that small rises in global temperature can have radical consequences for the environment.

Among the five recognized mass extinction events—the Ordovician, the Devonian, the Permian, the Triassic and the Cretaceous—at least four are believed to have some correlation to climate change. On top of that, it takes only small temperature changes to have large, extinction level effects. That's why industrial era pollution, the "blade" of the hockey stick, is more important to our immediate concerns. For instance: the sum total of all CO2 out-gassed by active volcanoes amounts to about 145-255 million tons per year. That amounts to one hundredth of anthropogenic (human caused) emissions. The CO2 that nature emits (from the ocean and vegetation) is balanced by natural absorptions (again by the ocean and vegetation). Therefore human emissions upset the natural balance, rising CO2 to levels not seen in at least 800,000 years.

Even minus the older proxy data, I find it strains credulity to believe that a 150 years of cumulative field data collected from all over the world by thousands of scientists, working from numerous disciplines, all collaborating, testing, validating, checking and re-checking their results and sharing them in online forums, scientific journals, lectures and seminars can be reduced to the dismissive label of tentative science, or is thus rendered invalid because a hand full of people at the narrow end of the funnel, in an attempt to make the tail wag the dog, put the infamous hockey stick together to purposely misrepresent faulty statistical averaging that somehow conforms to their preconceptions, while invalidating everything they hoped to prove, and jeopardizing their careers in the process. Something's rotten in the state of Denmark, and it's not Copenhagen. This is why peer review is important: Any serious flaws not only risk setting public opinion back regarding science in general, but in the event that the evidence for global warming survives the criticism and techniques used to interpret it, the decisions we make about what actions to take (or not to take) are no less critical to the planet, since we're still left with rising temperatures, which don't care about politics
at all.

Gordon said...

Dean,

“Any serious flaws not only risk setting public opinion back regarding science in general, but in the event that the evidence for global warming survives the criticism and techniques used to interpret it, the decisions we make about what actions to take (or not to take) are no less critical to the planet, since we're still left with rising temperatures, which don't care about politics
at all.”

Absolutely! Let’s end on a point of agreement. I would add, though, that one can only hope that we do find ways to actually keep temperatures rising by the time we exit our present interglacial period. The next ice age, which is the normal state of the earth, will kill most of the planet if we don’t find ways to mitigate the cold.

Dean said...

Gordon,

Were you ever a fan of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone as as kid? Thankfully, because of YouTube, they are all available to be seen anytime. Your final comment, which I accept in good humor, reminds me of this episode with Lois Nettleton.
The Midnight Sun I guess the only question (along with the durability of the theme) is which dream is she actually having?

Thank you for an invigorating discussion! All my best to you, Gordon.

Allen Johnson said...

Gil,
As the person who introduced me to the Girardian Theory, I have deep respect for your intellect and moral compass. Therefore I am deeply disturbed and confounded by your closing lines, to whit:

"Whether the planet is heating or not remains to be seen. If it is, whether this is due to human factors or not also remains to be seen. If and when either issue is truly settled, I will be happy to know the truth and try to accommodate to it."

This stalling tactic is the "weapon of choice" for those who deny AGW. Just pose the issue as an unsettled debate and of course no substantial policy change or societal behavioral change will occur.

Gil, this is an unconscionable choice, I with regret need to make. If you are going to speak out on the Climate Change issue, at least take the time to seriously study the matter. Study "the best" of all arguments. Come to understand the science and logic of AWG. Read the denialist works, too. Search out the credentials, the funders, etc. See what drives the motivations. Who is doing original scientific research, and who is just picking apart the science from the armchair?

I spent some time a week ago with James Hansen at a Prayer Breakfast in Washington. He is the noted climate scientist. I finished his book, "Storms of My Grandchildren." I find him a humble, shy man, who prefers the lab...and a future for his grandchildren and yours and mine.

Please take time to research this out yourself, rather than parroting a favored ideological stance. Please...

Ricky Raccoon said...

I’ll believe in AGW when the Al Gore, the Oprah, the Steve Jobs, the John McCain, the John Edwards, etc…live as simply as I do.

Allen, are you a climate scientist?

Doughlas Remy said...

Here's an insightful comment from Al Gore:

I have been to enough college campuses to know if you are 30 or younger this climate issue is not a debate. It's a value. These young people grew up with recycling and a sensitivity to the environment--and the world will be better off for it. They are not brainwashed... [Republicans] should buy into it and embrace it and not belittle them. You can have a genuine debate about the science of climate change, but when you say that those who believe it are buying a hoax and are wacky people you are putting at risk your party's future with young people.

Ricky Raccoon said...

I’ll believe in AGW when the Al Gore, the Oprah, the Steve Jobs, the John McCain, the John Edwards, etc…live as simply as I do.

Doughlas Remy said...

Hi Ricky,

I am so embarrassed. I attributed that quotation to Al Gore. Actually, it was from a speech by Senator Lindsey Graham (Republican, South Carolina). Gil has quoted him approvingly in recent posts.

Basing your beliefs about climate science on the behavior of entertainers, CEOs, and politicians is not a very good way of getting at the truth of it. I would recommend looking at the scientific consensus.

Ricky Raccoon said...

Hi Doug
I don’t care who said it. I still reject the premise. You should not expect to hurt my feelings by throwing Mr. Graham’s words in my face. He is not my shepherd. If he came here today and said they were his words, not taken out of context and that he stands by them, then I still reject them and his point: that we should lie to our children in order to grow the numbers of “the party”. It is a hoax and only wacky people would buy into it.

Let me refine the point I was trying to make which was of course different now that you revealed your misquote. Rush Limbaugh does that trick on occasion, btw, and I’m not a fan of it. It is immature and most of all, unnecessary. Here is my point: I am sick and tired of being preached to by people who do not live by their so-preached moral standards. I don’t care who it is. I don’t even care that, say, Al Gore “lives well”, it is that he wishes to limit the rest of us from doing what he is reserving for himself.

Now, toward your new point -- which I also reject, but not because it’s you saying it -- when you stop placing “science” in the same sentence as “consensus”, I’ll begin to consider your advice as to where I should “look” for science.

One of the great things -- the least of which of what Jesus had to say -- is that what He said will always be true. “You will know them by their fruits.” I just ran across this this morning. This is not a new piece of evidence about the Al Gore, but it is nonetheless true and of critical importance in determining where not to look for science. Not merely a quote of preaching, but of actual acts. Another pretty good “hockey stick” chart too, one might say.

Science is not science “by vote” aka consensus. Its data should not need to be requested by exercising the Freedom of Information Act. Its so-called proponents should not need to trick people, such as, oh, I don’t know, such as you may have attempted with your false quote. Science is science (at the least) by its ability to be repeatable, and in its ability to scientifically render every critique presented against it as being false or inadequate. It is never science by vote, nor by name calling, hiding, manipulating data, ruining careers of those who question. Science is not science, perhaps most of all to me, when it is in direct conflict with simpler forms of the same principles. Two plus two will always equal four. My eyes and lungs and skin have been conducting non-destructive tests for over 40 years now. My conclusion: the air and water have never been cleaner, the sky more blue, food, fuel, freedom and prosperity more abundant to more people anywhere on earth and at anytime in history.